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Brookhaven Town considers new policies on dangerous dogs

Laurette Richin, executive director of Long Island Bulldog

Laurette Richin, executive director of Long Island Bulldog Rescue, kisses her dog Josie, right, as her other dog, Mattie, left, looks on at her home in Stony Brook Friday, Jan. 20, 2016. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Brookhaven officials are planning to revamp the town’s policy for dealing with dangerous dogs after attacks last year killed two canines and left another injured.

The proposed amendments to the town’s current dangerous dog law are intended to ensure that dogs are unable to run loose after they have mauled people or other animals. The new rules, which mirror state law, also would boost fines for owners who fail to properly house dogs deemed dangerous by a judge.

The changes will be the subject of a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.

Town officials said the new law, if approved, would make it easier for judges and animal control officers to determine whether a dog is dangerous and should be confined. The town would expand the definition of dangerous dogs to include those that attack other pets and service animals; the current law considers dogs dangerous only if they attack people or are involved in dogfighting.

“We can’t sit back once an animal control officer . . . determines that a dog is dangerous,” Emily Pines, chief of staff to Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, said in an interview. “That’s significant, because you really want a ruling from the court, based on the evidence you can produce, about whether a dog is dangerous.”

Fines also would be changed by the new law. For instance, the maximum fine for failing to control a dangerous dog would rise from $500 to $1,000.

The proposed law comes after two dogs were killed and another was injured in a pair of dog attacks in the summer in Rocky Point.

In the first case, a 3-year-old boxer was injured by a group of pit bulls. One week later, three loose pit bulls killed two Chihuahua-mixes.

The attacks prompted Colin Goldberg of Rocky Point to start a website, Brookhavenbites.org, to raise awareness about dangerous dogs. Goldberg, who said he lives in the neighborhood where one of the attacks occurred, said the cases exposed flaws in the current town policy.

“That was the main indicator there was something wrong with the procedures in place,” Goldberg, 45, an artist who runs a design company, said. “It leans toward giving the dogs back [without penalizing their owners].

“My primary purpose is the safety of my daughter to be able to go out in the neighborhood without the fear of dogs attacking,” said Goldberg, the father of a 2-year-old.

A critic of the proposed law, Laurette Richin, executive director of Long Island Bulldog Rescue in Stony Brook, said it takes a “backwards approach” that appears to punish dogs rather than what she called “irresponsible owners.”

Richin said the law should require owners of dangerous dogs to be trained to properly care for them, and dogs should be kept in yards with security fencing.

“They have to be returned to their homes under certain conditions,” she said. “If they want to be able to keep their dog, they should have that opportunity.”

Proposed amendments to dangerous dogs law

  • Definition of dangerous dogs changed to include those that attack pets.
  • Dogs deemed dangerous must be registered with the town clerk.
  • Dangerous dogs must be kept indoors or in locked pen or kennel.
  • Pen or kennel must have “dangerous dog” sign.
  • Dangerous dogs must wear muzzle outside kennel or pen.
  • Fines increased for failing to properly house dangerous dogs.

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